Asteroid named after Alejandro Jodorowsky

A large asteroid has been named after Alejandro Jodorowsky, the cult Franco-Chilean film-maker and science-fiction comics writer who later became a spiritual guru.

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The Minor Planets Centre, a branch of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), has listed asteroid 261690 Jodorowsky at the request of a French astronomer who spotted the five-kilometre-wide object more than seven years ago.

The discoverer is Jean-Claude Merlin, who has several other “minor planets,” as large asteroids are called, on his list of sightings.

“I detected it on the evening of Christmas Eve in 2005, using an 80-centimetre (32-inch) telescope in Arizona that I direct over the internet from my home,” Merlin was quoted on Tuesday as saying in a press release by Les Humanoides Associes, Jodorowsky’s French publishing house.

Several years of observation are needed to confirm a discovery and calculate its orbit, enabling it to be enshrined in the IAU’s list.

A special panel, the Committee on Small Body Nomenclature, is in charge of approving names. Approval came on July 24.

Jodorowsky, 84, leapt to prominence in 1970 with an offbeat “acid western” movie called “El Topo”, which was followed in 1973 by a surrealist film, “The Holy Mountain”.

Both became popular on the underground film circuit in the United States.

In France, he found success in the 1980s with science-fiction comic books, including a series called The Incal, illustrated by French artist Moebius.

Jodorowsky, based in Paris, also writes and talks about his own spiritual beliefs, which he calls psycho-shamanism, whose influences include tarot cards, alchemy and Zen Buddhism.

Hundreds of asteroids have been named after human beings, rather than characters in fiction or Greek and Roman mythology.

Astronomers, physicists, mathematicians, politicians, philosophers and teachers are among those who have been given this honour.

“Artistic” asteroids include 2362 Mark Twain, 2675 Tolkien, 8749 Beatles, 7934 Sinatra and 13070 Seanconnery.

261690 Jodorowsky orbits in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, at an average distance of 470 million kilometres (293 million miles) from the Sun, the press release said.

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Low cash rate boosts home construction

Approvals for the construction of new homes have surged above expectations as the effects of record-low interest rates filter through the economy.

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Building approvals rose 10.8 per cent across Australia in July – and 28.3 per cent over the year to July – according to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, exceeding economists’ expectations of a four per cent rise in the month.

ANZ chief economist Ivan Colhoun said while the figures were encouraging, the data was subject to volatility caused by approvals of big apartment buildings.

“Month by month you do get quite a lot of volatility but there’s a gradual trend upwards,” Mr Colhoun said.

“Looking through the volatility, there is an encouraging uplift going on, particularly led by NSW.

“Housing is typically the sector that first responds to lower interest rates so it is showing its normal response to lower interest rates, although it has been a little bit more constrained than in the past.”

The healthy approvals figures came after the closely-watched RP Data-Rismark Home Value Index showed Australian capital city home prices rose more than five per cent in the 12 months to August – further signs that the housing market is recovering, CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian said.

“Low interest rates, strong population growth, healthy employment, and pent up housing demand is starting to see the housing sector shake off the shackles and begin a much needed resurgence,” Mr Sebastian said.

“Granted it is early days, but the sector looks to be on a healthy recovery path.”

JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy said the large increase in approvals for July had followed two consecutive monthly falls and would likely be followed by a hangover in the next few months.

But despite the volatility, the figures were encouraging, he said.

“While the underlying trend is a little difficult to discern, with record low interest rates and home prices rising, it is reasonable to expect some of the uptick in investor loan activity we have been seeing to flow into further residential investment through this year and next,” he said.

Master Builders Australia chief economist Peter Jones said the approvals were a positive sign that a housing recovery was taking hold but said approvals were “nowhere near where they need to be to meet the under supply of housing”.

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Ferguson still AWOL, considers boxing move

Confessed peptide user Sandor Earl may have stolen Canberra’s bad boy tag, but the NRL club still hasn’t located his troubled mate and possible budding boxer Blake Ferguson.

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The AWOL centre was last seen at Raiders HQ on Saturday, with CEO Don Furner unable to speak to Ferguson the entire week.

Ferguson had advised the Raiders to contact his second-cousin Anthony Mundine after failing to show up for a meeting on Tuesday night, however the club had no success in doing so.

While Mundine could have provided a stable influence for Ferguson, the bad news is he flew to the US on Friday to promote a proposed boxing bout against Shane Mosley in Sydney on October 23.

However it’s understood the undercard fight is open and being courted as a possible option for Ferguson, who has been talking to sports agent Khoder Nasser.

News of Ferguson’s potential boxing career comes just one day after reports emerged that he had been charged by police for allegedly driving with a suspended license whilst speeding 18km/h over the limit.

He is scheduled to appear at Moss Vale Local Court on October 21 – two days before his proposed professional boxing debut.

After standing down the missing star without pay on Thursday, the Raiders say the alleged driving offences will also be taken into account when considering Ferguson’s future at the club.

However it’s highly unlikely that meeting will ever take place.

The 23-year-old has the option for a get-out clause in his contract as of October 31 that was triggered when head coach David Furner was sacked last week.

It’s almost certain that if the Raiders don’t cut him loose before then, he’ll trigger that clause to be closer to family and friends in Sydney.

The distraction couldn’t come at a worse time for Ferguson’s teammates, who have slumped to 12th place after four straight losses.

His latest Houdini act is just one of many off-field indiscretions over the past nine months, the most serious of which being the alleged indecent assault of a woman in a Cronulla bar in June for which he’ll front a Sydney court next Tuesday over.

Other indiscretions include drinking with sacked teammate Josh Dugan instead of turning up to a recovery session in March, and being kicked out of a music festival last November after allegedly spitting on patrons.

No wonder Raiders interim coach Andrew Dunemann earlier in the week admitted the whole Ferguson saga had become a circus.

Meanwhile Canberra have re-signed under 20s stars fullback Jack Ahearn, centre Jeremy Hawkins and prop Jeff Lynch until the end of 2015.

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Pearce confident Roosters can fly again

According to Mitchell Pearce, it’s the lull the Sydney Roosters had to have, and he sees no greater motivation than arch-rivals South Sydney to snap them back into NRL premiership-winning form.

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The Roosters go into Friday night’s minor premiership-deciding derby having lost back-to-back game for the first time this season – a worrying dip in form when serious title contenders want to be building momentum.

Pearce admitted the timing was not ideal, but pointed to similar down periods for the Roosters’ title rivals as evidence that the slump was not necessarily terminal.

The Storm lost four of five games during State of Origin, Souths lost three of four when Greg Inglis went down with a knee injury while Manly won only one of six games amid a tough mid-year stretch.

“Sometimes when you have a couple of losses and get a bit of criticism, you start working a bit harder,” Pearce said.

“It’s funny how it works but we haven’t really had too many lows this year and, in saying that, Manly, Melbourne and Souths have had a couple of down periods where we’ve been pretty smooth sailing.

“It’s probably not the best time to have it at this time of the year, from the outside perspective, but inside we feel like we’re ready to go.

“It’s definitely doable (turning it around) … we don’t think there’s too much in it.

“It’s just a matter of a bit of adjustment and realising what we’re about, and no better place to try and turn that around on Friday.”

And if complacency was an issue in past weeks, that should not be a problem before a bumper crowd and with top spot on the line.

“We probably should have won the game (against Gold Coast) and there were a couple of areas that were uncharacteristic of us this year,” Pearce said.

“A fair bit of that was in defence which is something we haven’t done this year.

“That’s a little bit of a negative sign but we’re trying to take it as a positive and a bit of a wake-up call.

“And there’s no bigger test against Souths this week, especially with their backline with (Greg) Inglis out the back – we’re going to have to be on in defence.”

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